Indonesia / Museums

My visit to Museum Nasional Indonesia

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As Indonesian citizen and museum enthusiast I felt a little embarrassed that it took me years for me to visit Museum Nasional Indonesia in Jakarta. Mostly because I am guilty in underestimating quality of public service (and that includes museum institutions) in Indonesia. Long story short, on a fortunate afternoon during my stay in Jakarta, I finally did it. I took transjakarta to get myself there, bought that 5,000 IDR entrance ticket (which I personally find ridiculously cheap for the experience museum gives) and I was in awe.

In my career as cultural manager/ curator/ researcher I took pride in having visited important museums overseas that houses items from Indonesia. Museums such as Asian Civilization Museum, NUS Museum, Volkenkunde Museum, Rijksmuseum, you name it. And trust me when I say that the collections that Museum Nasional Indonesia takes care of are beyond whatever I have seen in museums overseas. These collections are gorgeous selections of items from all over Indonesia. Beautiful kinds of gamelans like no other you can see elsewhere, fish catching equipments with inspiring designs that are surprisingly sophisticated and current, intricate war equipments, all of these that will certainly make you appreciate being Indonesian or even just know about Indonesia.

Granted, they have issues in providing proper information about each collection displayed at the moment. But setting that aside, you can see improvements and that they are really working hard on care-taking the collections, preservation, digitising amongst tons of things they have to do. Another thing is the awkward way of groupings and displaying items within the museum, I suppose they are still trying to figure out what is best to do, it is understandable since Indonesia is no easy subject to display.

For those of you who are currently inconveniently far away from Jakarta, please do check their online collection here.  And for those of you who are within premise of Java, please do visit the museum, spare 2-3 hours to take it all in, be inspired and learn a thing or two.

The museum opens from Tuesday to  Friday from 8 – 4 pm and on the weekends until 5 pm. If you come a bit late you can start with their gold and ceramic wings on the 4th floor since this wing is closed at 4 pm, earlier than other parts of the museum.

Just like a lot of museums, it really does contain and packed with stories and educational materials, an endless source for learning. Here is some of my highlights :

The Suku map

The Suku map is located right at the entrance. With its great size – I took a several minutes just standing there in front of this huge archipelago map. And just like that you realise how large and layered Indonesia really is, my mind hasn’t stopped trying wrap my mind around it until today.

The Gamelans

I wish there were more information on the gamelans they have, but I really enjoy looking at them. The gamelans they have is quite special from any gamelans I have seen before. I can’t pin point what it is about the gamelan set, could be the design or could be just because it is authentic from 18-19th Century.

Gold Wing

The Museum has a special wing dedicated for items made of gold, not entirely sure why they particularly has wing solely for gold, but OK. The wing houses really beautiful items from household use to weddings to royal use to war use.

Fish catching equipments

I don’t know why, but I am very impressed at the level of thought and handicraft put into making different kinds of fish catcher.

These are just some of my highlights from Museum Nasional’s permanent collection. There is also temporary exhibition that will come up called  “Jalur Rempah: The Untold Story” from 18-25 October 2015, for more information please see here. It will certainly worth your while to visit, so do mark your calendar! 🙂


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